Jul
08

“Randori, an Aiki perspective,” by Francis Takahashi

“I have a serious bone to pick with certain Neanderthal type “purists” who insist that certain risk elements be incorporated into their training to ensure authenticity and martial integrity.”

Ran (chaos) + dori (taking or grasping) equals randori, a specialized aspect of training employed by several martial arts systems, including Aikido, which is crafted to further develop technical proficiency, a heightened situational awareness, and hopefully, a growing ability to maintain “sangfroid” (unruffled coolness) during stressful training, as well as in real time situations.

Randori can be performed by two individuals, or by having several individuals apply various levels and styles of pressuring attacks to the nage, the designated attackee. The goal is not necessarily to triumph, but to primarily persevere throughout the ordeal, emerging with a more enhanced experience, and a more confirmed sense of self knowledge, and of self confidence. Real confidence in both the self and in one’s training partners is a true win-win scenario in randori.

In the highest sense, it is a celebration of genuine accomplishment for all involved, from those who successfully develop better skills for giving realistic attacks, as well as for those who need to deal effectively with such novel and intense scrutiny of their skill levels, not to mention, of course, their respective abilities to remain cool under fire.

In Aikido, we can acknowledge a wide and definitely diverse range of methods and attitudes to the role of randori in everyday training. Randori kyogi can specifically refer to “sports training”, using the medium of clearly defined methods and goals of implementing, and benefitting from this competitive randori style of training. Although the Founder himself, Morihei Ueshiba, is said to have unconditionally condemned this form of training in “his” aikido, there are schools that regularly promote its use and extol its virtues. Perhaps it can be a matter of degree, but even without formal rules and guidelines for the existence of “competitive aikido”, we do find in existence many levels of formats with intensity intended, and the affirmative support for realistic randori training. Perhaps the rationale is to promote more original and useful skills development of the serious student, via the various forms and interpretations of modern aikido training today.

An important point of this article is to examine the true nature and purpose for engaging in randori training, regardless of style, provenance or format. Are we deriving real, measurable, and generally beneficial results from such training? Are the students themselves really achieving real and measurable improvement in their desired skill levels, as well as for developing quantifiable increases in competence and self confidence? Most of all, do they truly come to appreciate that randori training is personally satisfying, and a valued aspect of their overall training in Aikido?

What should the mental focus be while engaged in randori? Must it be primarily a result of training obsessively to be the last person standing, outlasting any and all attempts to humiliate or subjugate the spirit? Should it be the capstone of technical excellence, finishing an examination routine that also proves one’s mastery of fundamental skills and basic techniques? Or is it about maintaining a sense of control, knowing that one is never in true danger of injury or embarrassment, due largely to an unspoken or unwritten understanding agreed to beforehand by all parties concerned? Is it ultimately merely a performance, a tightly controlled shadow of what a real situation should seem like? Security issues are crucially important, but to what extent should policy be contrived to ensure that all parties are safe, from both real harm and from unwanted and unintended legal liability?

Valid and debatable questions appropriately arise as to the need for, the nature of, and the proven justification for the emphases placed on randori training. Are the desired goals being achieved across the board for the majority of the students? Are the risk factors accurately being calculated to minimize injuries, both physical and psychological, and found to be reasonably acceptable? What level of students, age and experience wise, are the most eligible for this form of training, and which ones are not? Each dojo and system of training needs to develop prudent, acceptable and appropriate answers to these and other related questions for themselves, and for their constituents.

I have a serious bone to pick with certain Neanderthal type “purists” who insist on preserving, and even requiring that certain risk elements be incorporated into their regular training, to ensure traditional authenticity and martial integrity in such Aikido training. They say that in order to regain respect and acknowledgment of Aikido as a genuine and effective martial art, certain elements of the Founder’s reputed fighting skills, and proven theories of internal power, need to be re-introduced, and made an integral aspect of modern Aikido training. This may be an interpretation that has merit, but not remotely consistent with the Founder’s constant admonition that his Aikido is not about fighting, but rather of building pathways to harmonious and mutually beneficial relationships. We are admittedly free to develop an aikido style consistent with our personal visions and goals. We must also then acknowledge the similar right of others to interpret the Founder’s gift and legacy in ways they too find suitable to adopt and to follow.

This especially holds true for the purpose and manner of the “randori” training that they ultimately choose to promote, and to espouse for themselves and for their constituents.
Nonetheless, are traditional practices and time honored values being unintentionally, or even deliberately undermined, and perhaps devalued by the perceived necessity to make certain compromises in today’s training? And, by which authority or under what agency should we fairly and uniformly acknowledge that would comprehensively and fairly address these questions, and to provide meaningful and acceptable answers, alternate viewpoints and solutions?

For me, none of the issues presented above are as pressing, or as intrinsically important as the necessary acknowledgement of the real risks of intense randori training to each student, and the need for a fully informed mind set each participant must develop prior to participating in any and all manner of randori training. I have personally encountered no small amounts of fear and reservations on the part of novices, and even experienced practitioners, to the very worrisome risks of physical injury, and to the real possibility of permanent harm to their health, and unwanted changes to their life styles. Persons who use their bodies for work are especially vulnerable to accidents and incidents unintended, and are understandably hesitant to freely commit to such a training environment. These concerns also need to be the concerns of dojo cho’s, administrators, and practitioners alike, and must be addressed appropriately and fully. Dojo and health insurance policies are woefully inadequate.

The notion that one can actually “triumph” and escape unscathed from such encounters boggles the mind of experience, and deserves to be securely locked away in the realm of fantasy and romance. Time is the final arbiter for all things human, and we must acknowledge that, as skills and body conditions continue to erode, the average person will eventually succumb to the inevitable reality factors of injury, unforeseen circumstance, and of well intentioned, but uncontrolled optimism.

Nay, I truly feel that the most appropriate and universally acceptable results of genuine and correctly supervised randori training must primarily be for enjoyment. We should definitely relish and celebrate the experience, not to emerge as victors, but as fortunate co-survivors and enlightened comrades in the search for excellence in daily training. What better way to “die trying”, than at the hands of, and the happy smiles from those with whom we share and endure so much together, our compassionate dojo mates and our treasured teachers.

Each successful randori experience can then become a “baptism” of sorts, allowing for a continuous succession, not of graduations, but of commencements towards truly exciting vistas of enhanced personal experience, for individually crafted martial skills development, and for individually selected targets for growth and personal satisfaction.

One size does not necessarily fit all, but one uniformly held commitment to mutual security, to maintaining command over one’s life, and to promote individual excellence, surely can.

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Comments

  1. Once again Takahashi Sensei has held an aspect of our training and perspectives beneath a lens of reason. As usual the comprehensive nature of his observations leave little room for debate for those of us that do not have his depth of experience. Once again he shows his metal as a teacher of Aiki and a champion of the future of Aikido. Out of respect for his efforts I will take a moment of my time to chime in.

    Randori as controlled training in the study of connection and awareness in a larger arena than single Uke/Nage Keiko, is valuable/imperative in establishing that personal base from which our Aiki can emanate. It is a different experience for everyone, and it should be. A mirror of Aikido… it is in my opinion useful in allowing Nage to see his/her relationship to the expanded “chaos” of the environment of their immediate universe. A valuable training exercise. The practice should be structured however, to remove as many uncontrolled aspects in order to protect Nage from him/her self, or putting Uke at risk in the response, more-so than creating a contrived scenario of threat … from what are generally questionable attacks to begin with. The practice should reduce, as much as possible, the inhibiting intimidation,fear, reflex actions, fight or flight tendencies and uncontrolled aggressive attributes Nage might have. From personal experience… Nage isn’t the only one that might get hurt while overlooking what might be accomplished. So what is the point of the practice.

    We can argue the complexity of applying Maai, timing, waza, strategy, warrior spirit, along with all the noble qualities of teaching one the inevitability of death and dying with honor, within this “practice” of Randori. Very few study how to do that. My teacher used it largely to teach proper use of irimi/tenkan footwork. I know of one teacher who makes it a public study, not just an entertaining element. It generally becomes however, an unfortunate exercise in domination, which truly isn’t that beneficial. At the same time the cliches of “conflict resolution”, Aiki as living, and doing no harm get bantered about. The paradox is obvious and the conflict in the construct can often be seen in the body attitude of Nage. Look closely at the photo accompanying the article, it is one of those 1000 word things, and I like all of these guys. They are actually friends. One can also speculate on the meaning of “dancing in chaos”, but like all of our other training we need to carefully take it one step at a time attempting to establish a firm basis of fundamentals.

    I like to get physical as much as the next person, but if Randori is imparting a skill set, running like hell or simply knocking down everything in your way… well, it isn’t Aiki. One cannot dance freely anywhere without being able to FEEL the music. How do you feel anything when the real or contrived conditions cause an immediate reaction of isolation? The picture is expressive, but no one is dancing and nothing imparts a sense of mutual investigation. Not a smile or open expression of connection to be had. Yeah, this isn’t all about happy time, but while there is chaos in the “universe”, there is also unity. That is balance, but I prefer starting from the unity side. Best to study the latter before trying to find a way to “blend” with the first. As a practice, throwing someone into the environment of “go get them” (that I usually see interpreted as Rondori), without a great deal of time, is irresponsible.

    Just in case we forget some of this in process… we do have indemnification forms and first aid.

    Anyway, read the second to last paragraph. Like the rest of the article… it is eloquent, succinct and encompassing. I will reiterate, “I agree Sensei”.

  2. I be Neanderthal.

    That said, I’m glad to exclude many of the techniques I’ve accumulated from daily training. Among other things, they’re too injurious and risky to teach. Perhaps more to the point, if you are going to hurt somebody deliberately or incidentally on the way to “total triumph” it takes a lot of time. In a multiple person scenario, you don’t have that much time. If you take it, pretty quick you get down to my teenage son’s pretty effective multiple person technique. He picks one, takes him out and pounds him to a pulp, absorbing whatever abuse others inflict until he has completely disabled his first choice. His next choice usually doesn’t have much taste for continuing the fight.

    Frank Doran and Bob Nadeau came up with a very effective multiple person training exercise Bob calls “Frankenstein Walk”. Everything is in slow motion. Attackers don’t actually DO anything beyond advancing slowly with their arms extended, re-orienting to nage whenever he moves. Nage is also limited to slow motion. The easy way to do timing is by slow clapping. One clap is one step. The lesson is in geometry of attack and ma-ai. A quick corollary is “always advance”. The rule of thumb is each step to the rear accumulates at least one more attacker in range.

  3. Paul Denne says:

    Well, the analysis of “randori” is an interesting in both the observation by Sensei Takahashi and the first comment by Mr Fasen.

    From my perspective, “perspective” which colours every aspect of life as you live it, our Aikido here practices randori from an early stage. It is measured, by instruction (…and those teaching the class) and ramps up in the same way as techniques meet more resistance to test ki as we develop.

    I’ll start from my background which is joining the military in Australia first, at age 17. I was not big but would fight anyone, win or lose, and learn from the experience. It didn’t happen often as I was meant to be on the same team. Later, after that time, I thought I really needed to learn something to defend myself in case I do need a skill to back me up, so I went to a boxing gym in 1987 and started training. I was fit and very stiff. I realised all my pre-conceptions of boxing were wrong. I was taught how to “get loose” and strike when the time was right. I practiced for 3 years.

    Fast forward to 1998 past various things like surfing, rock climbing, general fitness and a flatmate from Germany that was into this Aikido stuff. He showed lots of video of this Nishio (Sensei) guy that was interesting but a bit of his videos were monotonous. Suffice to say I moved to a new city, didn’t know anyone so I sought out a club…and an Aikido club no less.

    The whole crew there are eclectic, they don’t care about where you come from, how much money you have or what you know as long as you are willing to learn and share what you know. A very broad range of individuals and it seems to attract the same kind constantly.

    The sensei at my school comes from English Aikido of the 70’s, courtesy of Kenshiro Abbe (Missing from the list of Aikidoka past), who was sent to England in the 50’s by O’ Sensei with his compatriot Tadashi Abe in France. They were old warriors and had to earn their respect as they were unknown, but earn it they did.

    At the same time O’Sensei was doing drills, seen on film, that are what I would consider randori.

    The exposure to this method of training is to teach spatial awareness on where a threat may lie. To be focussed on one uke leaves open an attack by others. In military terms, a flanking manoeuvre.

    Randori IS testing for the first few times, up in front of a crowd, but it reinforces what you’ve learned, and encouragement with measured critique from the sensei leads to improved performance. As I mentioned earlier the level of attack increases incrementally with higher grades and promotes calmness which is one of the most essential parts of the arts.

    At 1st kyu and above we sometimes practice with live blades, tanto and katana. We train with the wooden weapons intensively before we draw out the steel, and I challenge anyone to remain “calm” in face of a loaded gun if they have only had a plastic one pointed at them beforehand. By the same token, a live blade is a true test and true to life as it flashes towards you.

    The first time you are confronted with a live blade about 95% of people jump a metre away. It is strange to watch and even stranger to experience. “What happened to all that training with wooden tanto’s????” What happened was it became real, even in a controlled environment. With practice you can attain a calmness to ensure safe practice and correct technique.

    In conclusion, I would argue that it is a truer thing to practice with your uke and randori with multiple attackers than it is to train forever one on one. I consider the controlled tori – uke akin to practicing in a laboratory and the real world is anything but controlled. It is great to refine your technique, but the prototype requires stress testing. We live in a world that can be beautiful yet unpredictable. To be elitist about where you come from is intolerant, ignorant dare I say it Neanderthal so I suggest trying out the other before condemning it.

    We welcome guests and have friendship seminars with other styles. Our sensei does not allow criticism of other styles either. He promotes the acceptance of them as they are relevant to us.

  4. Sean Bledsoe says:

    Arts are, by definition, artificial. Formalism and realism constitute an eternal spectrum, which is debated in any art form. Martial arts are a paradox in this regard. “Real Bujiutsu” doesn’t exist. There is always a level of formalism, even in contemporary hojiutsu (gun technique). So perhaps “Serious Bujiutsu” makes more sense.

    One can approximate reality in training, which helps in the “real world,” but there are rules and politics in any martial interaction. In modern warfare, the Geneva Convention prohibits the use of flamethrowers, weapons of mass destruction, etc. Even “illegal war” (terrorism) has a political spectrum of horror: one decapitates someone before cutting off their face, before burning them alive, or before doing all three as they throw them off a building and all of that happens before someone is made to watch this sort of thing happen to their children just before it happens to them. Who knows if there is a stopping point (the realest reality)?

    In “The Art of Peace” the emphasis on non-violent solutions to a violent world brings this paradox into greater contrast, especially in randori or jiyu-waza, which is supposedly focusing Aikido on intensified martial scenarios. My understanding is that Morihei Ueshiba and Sokaku Takeda debated this point as well. Teachers and students have different expectations, so I think it is good that there are different schools, which people can choose between, depending on what they are after in a training environment.

  5. Dan Harden says:

    Excellent article as always by Mr. Takahashi.

    I agree with the general approach and admonitions you offered for the spirit of randori on the whole. I think you could have explored and strengthened some of the stronger and more definitive aspects of *Aikido’s* randori over other martial systems, such as: multiple attacks, the need and use of footwork, that footwork demonstrating both evasion, entering and dominating space and redirecting in a more defined fashion. It seems reasonable in any dialogue about martial arts, to discuss escalation and intensity. Many, if not most martial artists, are intimately aware of the pressure that jujutsu and MMA have brought to more traditional practices. Most teachers I know cross train in other arts and consider that pressure a benefit to their Aikido. Since most of these men are senior Aikido teachers with decades of training-Bill Gleason being one of them, I consider their experience and opinions to be rather substantial. It is Bill’s opinion that the increased pressure is not to be avoided, but rather embraced, as it will sharpen our practice.

    I am unsure of the purists you refer to and why they may be of a Neanderthal mindset. How do we define what a purist is in your discussion? You left it so ambiguous that it could fit anyone. Wouldn’t a purist, by definition be the one fitting closest to Ueshiba’s model of what Aikido is meant to be?

    When it comes to the martial aspects of Aikido, it was Ueshiba himself who was constantly talking about it being deadly and effective. His frequent comments about *real* Aikido were that it potentially lethal. It would be easier to frame a discussion were we inclusive of his own commentary on the lethality of his Aikido, and then move a dialogue forward to include his own comments on how he developed his power.

    Neanderthals and evolution

    There is considerable material written by Ueshiba himself that quotes Chinese classics on building power through established methods commonly known as internal strength or internal power. Ueshiba was known to be continually researching and reading. And we now know – through recent translations done by professionals who understand the material – that he was utilizing these methods and quoting them continuously. More’s the point, we also know these same methods were in use and were discussed as far back as 1451 in teachings offered at Kashima and Katori shrines. Several famous warriors were discussing these same power building methods *five hundred* years prior to Ueshiba using the exact same language.

    In conclusion, the ideas of lethality and internal power were never a mundane, pedestrian pursuit. The material covered in the deeper, softer, martial arts cover mental as well as physical, training. The Chinese model, which was followed and quoted by many of the famous warriors in Japanese Koryu, and utilized by Ueshiba, was never to my knowledge taken lightly or dismissed as crude or unworthy. It was considered the highest forms of Budo and delivered staggering power, which was evident in Morihei Ueshiba’s art.

    Dan Harden

    • Dan,

      Thank you very much for your well-thought reply. The following sentence you wrote caught my eye: “There is considerable material written by Ueshiba himself that quotes Chinese classics on building power through established methods commonly known as internal strength or internal power.”

      Would you clarify what material you are referring to? That would indeed be an interesting study in and of itself.

      Stan

  6. Joe Peterson says:

    Randori, a.k.a scrimmage: simulate attack. A method whereby you test your mental focus, powers of concentration and physical skills. The opportunity to improve skills. Aikido is a physical activity with a unique, abstract philosophy that dictates and complicates the art and its practice.

    In any scrimmage, the unwritten rule is not to inflict undo harm upon your teammate, or partner. Well, there is always that one guy who does. Someone intense and dedicated that goes too far, ending up injuring someone.

    Post WWII Aikido has safety guidelines built into it. If practiced accordingly, injury is minimal. For one, the attackers are reserved and usually should have enough experience to avoid injury; good ukemi, and enough experience to know what is coming and avoid the point of injury, like tanking. Post WWII Aikido is designed for taking ukemi, hence the purpose of ukemi. It also avoids or re-designs the old Daito ryu wazas in a way to prevent serious injury, like joint breaks. Aikido is also practiced on a padded floor that greatly reduces injury. Overall, modern Aikido is designed to have minimal injury. Addendum: poor or novice technique will result in serious injury, like broken bones.

    If you avoid the “Neanderthals” you don’t learn to handle them safely. You can’t curtail the Aikido experience to a personal interpretation of an utopia. Unless you only experience those in your dojo, selecting those who come in who meet the same criteria of your utopian dojo. People are still people no matter what they say or do. No one is identical in the way they see or interpret things. The “Neanderthals” may not be the most favored when doing randori, but they play an important role in the refinement and understanding of Aikido randori.

  7. Dan Harden says:

    Hello again Stan

    The new look at some of the previously translated material has revealed many errors and omissions, the bulk of it being centered around a subject matter unfamiliar to the translators; that of internal strength or power. As it turns out, many of Ueshiba’s doka, and discussions on training aiki were material that were either direct quotes or well known phrases in the study of the internal arts across many eras and cultures from India to China to Japan.

    It was well known Ueshiba would study Chinese classics. Unfortunately none of Ueshiba’s students and translators knew that what he was talking about were well established power building methods and axioms. Therefore, they assigned it to unintelligible “spiritual” nonsense, when much of it was indeed discernible by more educated people familiar with the higher level martial arts. One small example of which is Ueshiba writing that one should stand in Six Direction awareness before during and after each waza. This was incorrectly translated as “Stand in hanmi.” Hanmi has no direct meaning to the original text, or to Ueshiba’s martial discussions, while “six direction awareness” is a well documented classical training model outlined in other internal training methods from India to the Katori Shrine. More’s the point; Hanmi offers nothing as a training tool, while six direction awareness is part of a power building method.

    It is understandable that a translator would dismiss phrases unfamiliar to himself or his supposed readership due to his own inadequacies in understanding the text. One original translator defended his work by stating “six direction awareness” originally written by Ueshiba, was seen as a as a group of words that made no sense. I would offer it made no sense…to him. It appears in many places and in many sources to someone better read in higher arts. Poor academic preparedness in establishing a text is not a defense for an end result.

    Fortunately, now that a more well versed group of people are re-examining his actual writing, we can see Ueshiba in his proper place as yet another of a long line of martial genius’s well versed in documented power building methods rather than some singular genius never to be reproduced. By correctly pointing to the methods he himself was trying to discuss, it will help others to get a handle on what we should have been pursuing to replicate his own research and results.

    Aikido Journal had a very difficult time and encountered significant resistance from an established view of Aikido that was fraught with inaccuracy and personal agenda. Friendships, led to protectionism, and closed minds- due to relationship within an established hierarchy. It is my hope that as some of us are bringing this material that Ueshiba discussed and used for his art to light, and indeed showing up on mats and stunning well established Aikido Shihan and senior teachers with actual skill and power to back up our research, that those who fought the good fight then, will remember what it was like, and remain open to both an academic review of this work and actual demonstrable skill to support their findings. Moreover, when the facts are that these skills were considered to be the apex of martial skill in several cultures.
    Ueshiba was indeed being intellectually honest in pointing to the past, with his eyes on the future.

    Dan

    • Dan,

      With the exception of a few works that are based on Morihei’s recorded lectures, or the notes of Hideo Takahashi, there is little attributed to Morihei that has not been edited. And to make matters worse, the editors have remained silent about who they are and what they did. These edited works were translated into English and other western languages and have created a kind of “feel good” mythology of aikido which can only be regarded as “watered down” at best.

      So, with a few exceptions, we can forget about the English texts that have proliferated the world over because the Japanese “originals” on which they were based are unreliable.

      It is certainly possible that there is a Chinese influence on aikido, but I strongly doubt that it is direct. It would have to have come through the classical Japanese bujutsu subculture. This is certainly plausible in the sense that this was part of the Japanese martial culture of feudal times through the Meiji era.

      Attempts to attribute any direct Chinese influence based on Morihei’s experiences as a soldier in Manchuria in 1904-05, during his Mongolian expedition with Onisaburo Deguchi in 1924, or his three visits to Manchuria from 1939-1942, must be accompanied by some sort of documentary proof that is backed up by more than one source. So far I have seen nothing of this sort.

      For the reference of those who are interested in the subject, I would start with this article: “O-Sensei’s Spiritual Writings: Where did they really come from?” (http://blog.aikidojournal.com/2012/06/06/o-senseis-spiritual-writings-where-did-they-really-come-from-by-stanley-pranin/)

      • I don’t think that Dan’s asserting a direct influence – as in, I don’t think that that a realistic case can be made that Ueshiba himself studied Chinese arts directly.

        On the other hand, I think that quite a good argument can be made that the much of the core methodology and principles of Japanese martial arts in general and Aikido specifically comes from China historically, rather than being an original Japanese phenomenon.

        Ellis, of course, made the best and most complete argument for that in “Hidden in Plain Sight”.

        The question then becomes – how far can you get without some understanding of that methodology?

        Best,

        Chris

        • Thanks for the clarification. If that is the case, a future task would be to present some sort of scholarly, documented case for this argument. That would indeed make fascinating reading!

      • Dan Harden says:

        Stan,

        For the most part we agree. I don’t think the discussion is about a Chinese *martial art* having an influence. Not in the least. I am discussing a known martial training method that permeated the Asian arts. That… is an entriely different subject.

        I also agree with your assessment that the *influences* would have had to arrive from and have influenced Ueshiba from the Japanese bujutsu. The main point being those *influences* are in fact Chinese Influences from the internal arts ON the Japanese Bujutsu warrior culture. To further the point, they are written in Chinese in some Bujutsu scolls. There is no credible argument I can see for covergent evolution when the terminology and phrasing are exact. If we stick with the most basic language, we see the Asian model of Heaven/earth/man and six direction training. Discussed in practices from India, to the Nejia arts in China, with the exact same phrasing and usage attibuted to martial training from Kashima and Katori Shrines.

        More’s the point, we have a tie that binds, commonality of results produced. That being, where these training models are discussed, they come from men with unusual power who attributed that power to these (documented) internal training methods. I would be more open to the suggestion of convergent evolution were the descriptive language and physical results the same or similar, but with unrelated and unique proprietary terms for those results being used.

        Instead we keep seeing:
        1. The same descriptive language
        2. The same end result for power building
        3 The same *terminology* in use across both era and culture.

        What we are looking at is in fact a physical technology known in Asia, in use by warrior classes, that was not openly taught to my knowledge anywhere. Oddly, where and when these things are taught it is fairly consistent in producing men with unusual power and skills and we see Ueshiba using them verbatim.

        Dan

        • I appreciate the additional input. My point is much of what you’re talking about is based on English language sources. At least in the case of aikido, these texts are for the most part not reliable. To prove the case, someone is going to have to do the research and delve into several Asian languages, Chinese and probably Sanskrit for starters. It’s a huge task but a very worthwhile one.

          I myself am not qualified to speak on classical Japanese bujutsu topics. Have you discussed these issues with people like Phil Relnick and Meik Skoss?

          A good example of what I am speaking of is the history of Daito-ryu prior to Sokaku Takeda. I haven’t seen any credible research done linking the martial formation of Sokaku to the Aizu Clan going back to Shinra Saburō Minamoto no Yoshimitsu. The main source of information from the Daito-ryu side comes for Tokimune Takeda who echoes Sokaku Takeda himself. It’s just that a lot of assertions are being made without documentary support. And there are a lot of real charlatans out there who have literally made up their own histories and tied themself to fantasy lineages.

          If Aikido Journal is taken seriously, it is because we have done extensive published research over the years, and our source documents are known and available to the public. This body of knowledge acts as an anchor to our message. People who have adopted contrary positions have been left with the task of supporting their statements with historical proof which I think has been a difficult task. The Aikikai, for example, has been almost totally silent on these historical issues where the mainstream version of events has been questioned as a result of our research.

          I believe a similar job awaits to be done to demonstrate the Chinese-internal connection with Daito-ryu and aikido. I will follow your progress carefully and thank you for using Aikido Journal as one of your outlets for discussion.

          Keep up the great work!

          • Dan Harden says:

            Stan
            Actually I am using Japanese source material, Indian source material and Chinese, with those capable of translating the material. As far as discussions with Koryu Menkyo’s..yes. It is worth noting that in their own view, their expertise is also limited.

            Pursuing the topic and link between cultures is not as strict an academic standard as one may think. There are certain common concepts and training terminology in place that are consistent language to language. There are also certain common characteristics in feel as well that are evident for proponents demonstrating internal power. So watching Ueshiba move, and demonstrate push tests and characteristics of internal power in ways that were demonstrated in classical bujutsu, and in Chinese internal arts, and in Indian arts, then read his writings -in Japanese-and see him using the same terminology and phrasing, and even amplified descriptive models that match the internal arts ties things together quite well.

            Despite all efforts to make him a singular genius; you simply do not develop his power randomly, nor was he alone. There are definitive training models to do so. The evidence of what he was doing is displayed in his movement. The evidence of how he did it is in his own words, for those who understand the material.

            One example I referred to earlier is Ueshiba stating that heaven/earth/man releases the mountain echo. For most in Aikido this is mumbo jumbo and unexplainable. So is Ueshiba being pushed on and no one being able to push him over. Yet, upon examination we see his doka is in fact a well known training model that produced a physical power in the later.

            Most Aikido-ka do not understand the former, and hence cannot produce the later. Yet were one to take Ueshiba’s documented unusual strength and compare it to others in Japan, and then In China and then in India we discover similar results in the way they demonstrated it, and that these unusual men were pointing to the same source training material.

            Ueshiba was not only NOT unique he himself pointed to the work predating him. The best method I have found to forward this narrative is to demonstrate the physical model and then discuss the meaning of the classical training model that was more or less consistent throughout Asia.

            Dan

          • Good input! Please keep it coming. I look forward to your book.

  8. Dan Harden says:

    Hello Stan

    I don’t know how any further replies will be in context to Mr. Takahashi’s blog. His views on Randori were well thought out and clear.

    I only wanted to state clearly that the pursuit of Internal power that produced aiki was never and should never be equated with poorly developed, throw back, Neanderthal thinking. In every culture in which it was present, it was considered of the highest development. Those possessing such skill exhibited the same types of power Takeda, and Ueshiba were noted for, and pursued the same methods to get there. The fact that it is “news” to some, does not, in itself make it “news.” Shihan after shihan, teacher by teacher, are stunned at what it can do and feels like, and the evidence of Ueshiba’s reference material. Things are changing once again. I am pleased that teachers are interested in reviewing Ueshiba’s model and building his type of power and aiki.

    We should be in pursuit of both the methods and the men who posess such power. Certainly- at least percentagewise- it is severly lacking in Japanese budo. This is neither new or unusual. It has always been this way throughout history.

    All the best
    Dan

  9. I think we as martial artists are missing the point. Aikido should not be used for fighting. No martial art “should” be used for fighting. When I hear the O’Sensei quote of “Aikido is not for fighting”, I always wonder then why call it a martial art. There is two sides to martial arts the fighting side and the philosophical side. Far too many people focus on O’Sensei’s philosophical side in my view. People/students should not be forced to participate in something that makes them uncomfortable, but if you have done your homework and checked out the school before joining you should already know if it is the correct school for you or not. The philosophical side of the martial arts is there to help temper the ego and give direction for how to beter oneself spiritually?emotionally/etc. That however is only half the equation. If you want to learn how to apply your art whatever it is you have to fight period. Randori/sparring/mass attack/weapons/scenario based training etc. are all things that help bridge the gap of the dojo to the street. Simply denying that does not make it go away nor does it elevate your art or ability or technique. It just means when the time comes you will probably get beaten badly. No one wants to get into fights but if at some point you do have to fight my advice is train in a way that will allow you to prevail. Afterward you can go into the philosophical aspects of it but you cannot have one without the other. That’s what makes it martial arts. O’Sensei was not considered a great martial artist because he talked about life, love, and his philosophy for life. It was because of the other half of the equation he could fight, period. Learn to fight first, it does not matter the art then focus on the philosophy it will serve you better in the end. Thanks!

  10. This article by Takahashi Shihan is an excellent description of the Randori, as well as the different forms of practice, I have also carefully read the different comments and opinions that complement the article.

    I believe that practicing randori is very useful for keeping calm in the face of chaos. In the dojo we practice it in a safe way, ukes do not need to fall always, our sensei teaches us to use them as protection against the others.
    But what we must always remember is that we all have a life outside the dojo and an injury would change our life dramatically, so I agree with Takahashi Sensei that the most important is safety when practice and the second to enjoy the training.